Their name is a byword for immense wealth and power, but before their renown as art patrons and noblemen, the Medicis built their fortune on banking. Banking in the fifteenth century, even at the height of the Renaissance, meant running afoul of the Catholic Church's prohibition against usury. It required more than merely financial skills to make a profit, and the legendary Medicis--most famously Cosimo and Lorenzo ("the Magnificent")--were masterly at the political, diplomatic, military, and even metaphysical tools that were needed to maintain their family's position. Parks uncovers the intrigues, dodges, and moral qualities that gave the Medicis their edge. Evoking the richness of the Florentine Renaissance and the Medicis' glittering circle, replete with artists, popes, and kings, Medici Money is a look into the origins of modern banking and its troubled relationship with art and religion. --From publisher description.
Egads I don't think I ever realized that the Pope that Luther fought against was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. How about that!
I did find the writing style of the book a bit annoying. There are sentence fragments all over the place. It's not carelessly done - it's too consistent for that. It's just sort of deliberately informal, chatty. It wasn't a total obstacle - it was clear enough what the author was saying.
There were many fun references to our current social/political environment. That's a major theme of the book, the way that 15th Century Florence was the birthplace of our modern society. Of course any such hypothesis has to be simplistic to the point almost of absurdity. But the cartoon starkness of it makes it clearer. Maybe the reader will be motivated to study further, to fill in the subtleties. How was Luther different than Savonarola?
The tight relationship between money - banking - and politics: that's the core of it. How money has erased old family power. (There's one of those sentence fragments!)
Ah, there was a sentence in the book somewhere... in a productive economy, banks can make money by investing in productive enterprises. When all the productivity has moved elsewhere, the only money to be made is by encouraging the powerful to overspend on grand gestures, military and otherwise. Definitely many pointed references to present circumstances, though not always clearly labeled as such!
My biggest complaint is that if this is supposed to be a non-fiction work, then a true bibliography and a notes section should have been included. Instead there is a "Bibliographic Notes" section where he gives his opinion of other works on the Medici.